How To Check If Your Water Heater Is Working [Solutions]

It’s cold outside and you have some chills in your bones. There’s no time to tidy your work bag and you flip off your shoes and race to the bathroom.

From the corner of your eyes, you spot that there’s water in your heater’s tank. You turn on the knob, close your eyes, smile and wait for the luxurious heat. But what comes down is a shocking shower of bone-chilling, cold water. Something is definitely wrong. Your hot water heater just took a knock. What do you do? How do you check it?

Before you panic, things like this are bound to happen. They are nothing new and are fixable. In this article, we will show you how to check that your hot water heater is working and what to do if it’s not. Read to the end to find out.

To test if your hot water heater is working and replace the components if it’s not (or call a professional plumber to have it checked for you), here are quick and easy tips you should follow.

First, check if the circuit breaker of the water heater is broken or flipped. If this is the case, replace the broken fuse and wait for at least an hour for the tank to heat up again. If none of this happens, do this next.

Kill the electrical panel power, remove the fuses (be extra careful here), lock the panel, and inform everyone in the house that you are going to work on your heater’s circuit.

Remove the access panel and clear away the insulation so that you can have a better view of the heater’s control and other heating elements.

Next, scan the high-temperature limit switch, thermostat, and heating elements for any problems like broken components or burns due to fire.

Broken Electrical Water Heater? Here’s Why

The most common problem with electrical heaters is that the heat they produce is too small, not enough, or no heat. Often, this can be caused by a faulty heating element that just needs to be replaced. Sometimes, this is not always the case. For example, it could be that the settings on the heater are wrong, or that you failed to take good care of it. It could also be due to high water pressure in the tank.

Before you go tinkering things yourself, here is one thing you should do first.

Check The Warranty

Weird right? Before taking apart your heater, check the water heater’s warranty label. Every tank has this rating plate with a model and serial number.

These show you when the tank was made and will determine if the tank has warranty that may offer you a new one or parta, either for free or at a discounted price. Once you’ve figured this part out, you can either write down the information on the warranty or take a picture of it. Call the manufacturer if the element is bad or the leaking continues.

Note that warranties do not cover field labour, which means if a professional from the manufacturer comes over to fix things, you may for his services.
Before troubleshooting your water heater, you should know that tinkering these things can be extremely dangerous.

Electrical water heaters have high voltages (240 volts), meaning they are dangerous to work with when the power is on. Before checking the parts of your electrical heater, shut off the power to the heater by turning off the heater’s circuit breaker. Also, test all wires in the heater with a non-contact voltage tester to confirm the heater’s power is off before fiddling the wires.

4 Common Electrical Water Heater Problems & Their Fixes

1. No Hot Water

It could be that your hot water heater is not producing hot water as a result of a power cut, one or more broken heating elements.

How to Fix

The first thing you should do is check the heater circuit breaker in the service panel to make sure it is not broken or tripped. If the breaker is tripped, switch it off and then switch it on again.

If the circuit breaker did not trip (and you find it switched on), try to reset the high-temperature limit on the heater. Here’s how:

  1. Turn off the circuit breaker to your heater’s circuit via the service panel
  2. Take out the access panel for the upper heating element on the water heater
  3. Remove the insulation and the plastic safety guard. But be careful not to touch any wires or electrical terminals
  4. Press the high-temperature cutoff reset button (usually red in colour), located above the upper thermostat.
  5. Replace the safety guard and insulation in step three, and the access panel in step two.
  6. Then turn on the circuit breaker.
  7. If the problem of ‘no hot water’ still persists, then test each heating element. Replace broken ones if necessary.

2. Lack of Hot Water

If your water heater is producing hot water but not enough of it, then it could be that your unit is too small to meet your home’s demand.

How to Fix

Normally, your water heater should contain 75 percent of its hot water capacity. That is, if you own a 40-gallon water heater, the tank should hold around 30 gallons.

If you’re not getting enough, try to limit the number of times you shower in a day. Install shower heads that restrict excess water flow. If you use hot water for dishes and laundry, avoid doing these chores simultaneously. Spread them out.

If your unit is huge and you are not getting enough hot water like before it could be that one or more of the tank’s heating elements may have knocked. Another sign of inadequate hot water you should watch out for is getting a steady stream of lukewarm water. This is a sign the water heater’s heating elements are faulty. Also, if hot water runs out while showering, it could be that your unit’s heating element is faulty.

3. The Water Is Too Hot

Scalding hot water can burn your skin. If your electrical water heater supplies scalding hot water, it could be that your unit has one or both of its thermostats set too high.

How to Fix

To check and readjust the thermostat, here’s what you should do;

  1. Turn off the power supply to your water heater via the service panel.
  2. Remove the access panel, insulation, and safety guard from each heating element on the water heater. Do this with extreme caution to avoid touching any wires or electrical terminals.
  3. To confirm there’s no power in the wires, use a non-contact voltage tester.
  4. Next, check the heat settings of the thermostats. Ideally, their settings should be the same. The recommended setting is between 115 and 125 degrees.
  5. If the temperatures are different, adjust them to the recommended setting using a flathead screwdriver.
  6. Do step five for both thermostats, making sure they are the same.
  7. Replace the safety guard, insulation, and access panel in step 2.
  8. Finally, turn on the water heater’s circuit breaker.

4. The Water Is Leaking

Another common water heater problem is water leaks. Usually, this is caused by leaking valves and loose plumbing connections. Sometimes, it can be a faulty heater’s tank. To fix a leak, do a thorough inspection of the water heater and its piping system. What you need to look out for is loose fittings and leaking valves. Check also if your tank is corroded. If you find anything loose, tighten them with the correct wrench. If it’s a corroded tank, then you need to get it replaced immediately. Water leaks are dangerous if ignored for a long time and can cause serious damage to your home.

Watch this video for more information: